Action Packed, Inspiring Day!

This is going to be a full on, information packed blog. Today has got to be one of, if not the best day of my career. It had everything, fun, dancing, emotional moments and a look to the stars. Let’s call this section an abstract.

The day started earlier than usual, we were up at seven and sat having breakfast at 7:30. Although the intensity of the week and the heavy workload was starting to take its toll on the group (bedtime first night 1am, bedtime last night 10:30am). The group was fired up for what would proved to be an amazing day and one that highlighted how much work they had done with the South African Leaders.

With that we packed the van full of books that had been donated for the local primary school, hot dogs for lunch and a massive amount of football shirts brought all the way from Leeds. Then we were away, for our last trip out to Mnyakanya. We all took the opportunity to look out at the amazing view one last time.

We got a great welcome when we arrived at school, the sense of excitement was palpable. We took the food, books and kit up to the classroom to meet and discuss plans for the day. The previous day Mitchell had spent some time with myself to put a plan together for the day and to create an order of play. I must say he did a cracking job! With all of the group together, Mrs Chattoe fired up the troops with a churchillian style speech and asked the SA students to go and prepare their areas for the delivery of their sport.

Myself and Mitchell stayed behind to sort out the football shirts and how we were going to give them out. The festival would be delivered to nearly 100 primary students so we decided to give a shirt to each of them! We separated the shirts in to yellows which were made up of Brighouse and Horsforth shirts, a blue and white group which were made up of Doncaster Rovers, Rossington All Saints (my old school) and Barnby Moor and finally a mixed group which had elements of all the donations made.

group with football shirts

In no time the primary children had arrived and received a fantastic welcome from all of the student leaders. Plenty of high fives given and handshakes shared. The children were then presented with their t-shirts.

To everyone who donated, the look on their faces will live long in the memory. They will be cherished, looked after and more importantly used!

After a short address, the groups were sent to their sport to get underway playing and participating. As I mentioned in a previous blog, language has been an interesting one to observe. English into Zulu and Zulu into English. I was keen to see how that would work out when it came to the Mynakanya students communicating, explaining and leading to the primary school students. I was also keen to see how much of the information, drills and rules the students would restudents playing footballmember.

I should have had no such worries! The South African leaders were absolutely amazing, the change in them just by how they communicate was incredible. They spoke with confidence, they had control of the group and knew exactly what they needed to do. The primary students were hanging off their every word. Teaching Rounders, Tag Rugby and Handball is no easy task but teaching it to students who have never seen it before is a real achievement. The students should be very proud of their efforts because we are. A couple of students really caught my eye during the four days due to their effort and enthusiasm. Both Mzamo and Kasper who were Rounders leaders were excellent and have the potential to become real superstars!

The sporting activities were brilliant, the primary school students really enjoyed themselves as did the leaders. Due to the fact that the South African leaders were so good, our leaders were left at a little bit of a loose end! Looking across the field you saw a collection of St Mary’s students just watching and observing how all of their hard work played out. The St Mary’s team are a talented and special bunch and the way that the SA leaders performed is a reflection of them as people. It has been a real privilege to work alongside them all week.

In a flash it was all over and the sports festival was complete. The group gathered and Elliot gave a quick speech to thank everyone for their efforts. We then invited the primary students to the main hall for the reading festival.

students readingOver the last 12 months, St Mary’s have been collecting new and old books to take to SA to give to the local primary school and Zulufadder the local orphanage. Basically, due to the generosity of the local community we have pretty much brought across a full library! The hall was filled with books ranging from Harry Potter to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The leaders from both St Mary’s and South Africa then invited the primary schools student to collect a number of books to read. Sitting in circles students either read to or listened to the primary school students reading to them. I am from a sport background and I will be honest I am not a big reader but the sight of over 100 people reading together was special, lots of noise and lots of smiles.


I had the opportunity to listen to the lovely Amahle read to me about lions in Africa. I had such fun listening to her read in perfect English and the smile on her face whilst doing so is something I won’t forget. One thing I have learned whilst out here is the thirst for knowledge and education. At the age of 11, Amahle can speak and read in Zulu and English. That is pretty special. I also learnt a lot about lions, never too old to learn! At the end of the festival, the books were then presented to primary school. Amahle told me that she was looking forward to reading all of the new books and practicing her English. The books will do so much good and give students a lot of new skills and confidence. With that we said our goodbyes to the students from Ntolwane Primary School.

Over the course of the week they have given us so much joy, through their enthusiasm, smiles and eagerness to learn. Thank you.

A surprise then lurked around the corner, Mnyakanya had provided all the St Mary’s students and staff with a special lunch to say thank you for our efforts. It was a really nice way to finish the practical element of the programme. We sat and ate chicken, burgers and salad all together as a team. You could see looking down the table how much fun everyone has had and how special the experience had been.

After lunch, another surprise! Over the course of the year the students of Mnyakanya have been raising money to purchase gifts to give to us all as a way of thanking us for our time and efforts. This was a real special moment, we were all presented with our very own South African scarf. A lovely gesture and an item I will keep with me forever, a little piece of Mnyakanya and South Africa will be at home in Barnsley.


With the partnership delivery over it was time to celebrate with a special assembly organised by Mnyakanya. I will be completely honest, this has to be one of the most surreal, loud and magnificent things that I have had the pleasure of being a part of.

While we were eating lunch, we could hear some loud music and screaming coming from the main hall. This would prove to be the main theme of the entire assembly!

As the team took the short walk across to the hall, the music and noise got steadily louder until we walked into the main hall. The noise then turned up at least four notches!

We took our seats and waited for the big wigs to take their seats. I tell no lies when I compare the noise in the hall to a gig at the Leeds Arena! It was loud and raucous! Not your standard school assembly! Every new song greeted a screaming and dancing. An extraordinary sight!

students performing

Eventually the noise died down and then turned up again when the principal, William entered the room. It is clear to see the regard the Mnyakanya students hold their principal in!

The assembly started with an excellent rendition of the South African national anthem by everyone on the room and a short Zulu prayer read by our MC. This was then followed by one of the South African leaders thanking us all for our time and efforts. She said that they had loved their time with us and that we need to come again next year.

This was then followed by an awards ceremony led by Mrs Chattoe. These awards presented by St Mary’s to students of both Mnyakanya and Ntolwane really highlight what the partnership is all about. Students who have shown commitment, leadership and also sporting talent. The reaction of all the award winners really highlighted how much the awards mean to the students, the school and the wider community. It is fantastic to celebrate all the good that goes on both while the project is in operation but also throughout the school year.

Next on the agenda was a number of presentations from St Mary’s to Mnyakanya. The partnership has been going for almost 10 years and in this time their has been much progress and development. To show this and to make a commitment to continue the project in following years, St Mary’s have produced a number of posters to show what happened in each year of the project. The posters are excellent and show all of the hard work that has gone into making the partnership such a success!

The final presentation was courtesy of the St Mary’s students. To leave a little bit of Leeds in the school all of the students had put together to buy two compete set of Leeds United shirts for the school to use in soccer matches. What a great idea, soccer/football is massive in South Africa and I hope the kit will inspire the next generation of footballers!

Finally from the St Mary’s, we had Niall and Elliot putting on a fine performance on the guitar playing songs from Biffy Clyro and The Beatles. They did a great job, I wish I could play like that. I play more like the guys who came on after.

Then the fun began….

The nZulu Dancingext section of the assembly was led by Mnyakanya students and staff. Let’s just say it was loud, interesting and a little crazy! Much like the beginning of the assembly!

There were a mix of traditional Zulu dancing led by one of the students “playing” the guitar…. Followed by a group “rapping” and dancing…. I cannot describe how loud the music was and how the students were reacting. Screaming, arms in the air, standing and jumping. Just wow.


Finally, the Mnyakanya principal, William closed with a short speech to thank us for our support and congratulate the South African leaders on their progress and the impact they have had. Then the music exploded once again. Like I said interesting, surreal and memorable. Very, very memorable….


After the assembly, we went back to the classroom to say our thank you and goodbyes to the SA leaders. As is customary for the trip, all the students and staff give their spare Bambisanani shirts to the South African students of their choice. As well as that, all of the students and myself had brought gifts to give to the South African leaders. This proved to be an emotional moment for a lot of people including myself. I decided to give my T-Shirt to Kasper, he had been quality all week and his performance at the festival was exceptional. I had to chase after him as he was leaving school to walk home but I managed to give me my shirt and tell him how good he was! The look on his face, wow.

I also had a Man United kit to give away that was given to me by my mum and dad to give away to someone special. That honour went to Mzamo, all week he was excellent. An excellent leader, he organised his peers and his students superbly. I gave him the kit and immediately it was greeted with a massive hug and a few tears. What a boy, the bottom lip was wobbling a bit! Lots of gifts, smiles and waves as our time at Mnyakanya came to an end. An amazing four days, competed by an amazing day. What an experience so much to take away, learn from and grow from. It has changed my thinking on a lot of things.

A treat remained, the staff at Mnyakanya asked all of us to join them at a very special place up in the mountains.

A river close to the school has a special secret in the winter months. Winter in South Africa are cool and dry and as such the rivers retreat and this one reveals a special secret, hot springs!

We travelled on what can only be described as a road that makes a cobbled street seem like Silverstone to a special enclosure down by the river. What a view, what a place and what a way to end the day. Sat in the stone bath full of hot spring water looking at the greatest view I have ever seen in my life. The river is used in the winter as a holiday location for camping and relaxing. It also has a bush dunny for those who follow I’m a celebrity!

Hot Springs

The drive home went pretty quickly, the pitch black did make things a little interesting! There are no street lights, so driving can be pretty hairy on the mountain roads. It also makes it interesting when livestock roams around! Let’s just say we nearly had beef for tea…

After a well earned shower and dinner, we were treated to a lesson about the southern sky by our friend Logan. It’s was the perfect way to end the perfect day. Stood outside gazing at the sky thousands of miles away from home. Simply gorgeous!

So much in one day, I think it will take time for the experience to sink in. However, the smiles, hugs and emotion will live long into the memory. It has made me determined to spread the message and make sure that we come back and help the fantastic people of Zululand to say thank you for everything they have done for me.


St Mary’s Students Thoughts so far…

I am very aware that the blog has documented how I feel about the programme and the impact it has had on myself. However, the students from St Mary’s have grown immeasurably. I have asked some of them to put together their thoughts on what impact the trip has had on them.

Tom Brady – “The enthusiasm which students bring to the school each day, despite the circumstances in which they are forced to live, is an inspiration and an attitude I will look to take with me.”

Lucy Tindale – “It is clear that the people here make the most of every opportunity, despite the lack of appropriate resources. This is shown by their excitement to participate on the school’s sport field – which is covered in glass.”

Dominique Cunningham – “The maturity and commitment shown by the people we have worked with so far is inspiring, the partnership has shown me just what can be achieved when we all work together.”

Mairenn Collins – “I’m sorry: I would try to put something into words but I can’t – words wouldn’t do justice to how this place and these people have affected me.”

Rebecca Still – “I have made friends with people I never thought I would- African and English alike. I knew this trip would change me but I could never have guessed how much, from having new Zulu style dance moves to having more confidence in myself being with unknown people and in a completely new environment, I have grown from being in this country and with such inspiring people.”

Joe Copsey – “It’s incredible the impact one small act of kindness can have on the South African students. Something as simple as giving a bracelet can make them smile from ear to ear. It really puts things into perspective.”

Will Giles – “From meeting the students for the first time to see them becoming such great leaders, and forming profound and long lasting friendships, is something I am honoured to say I have been a part of.”

Niall Hogan – “I can’t believe I have been given an opportunity such as this. The happiness all the students exude shows me just how much they value the partnership. I am honoured to say I am a part of the Bambisanani project.”

Elliot- “The perseverance of the students to learn under difficult circumstances is truly inspiring. What hit home the most was the fact that they carry 1 small cloth with them at all times, using 1 side to clean their face and the other to clean their shoes. This dedication should inspire us all.”

Mitchell- “Having experienced the dedication of the students to succeed and do well, I am truly inspired by the work that they do. I believe we need to be more appreciative of all we have at home and take less for granted.”

I don’t think I need to say anymore, the project and the people who are part of it are really special.

handball and rounders poster

Sport Transcends Everything…


Welcome to the next installment of the blog! Today has all been about consolidating the work done with the South African leaders ready for the festival tomorrow. A nice breakfast and a packed lunch and we were on our way. We went straight to Eshowe High School to pick up their four leaders and then we made a bee line for Mnyakanya High School.

One of the things I have noticed the more we have travelled to and from the school are the building and houses scattered around the countryside. After learning so much about how the Zulu people live and how they shape they homesteads, you can see lots of evidence of those kinds of homes around.

As we arrived at Mnyakanya, we put our stuff in the classroom we have been working in and waited for the classrooms to be allocated for the St Mary’s students to teach in.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, sport transcends everything. If you put a ball in front of a group of lads (young and old) it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable happens and it did.

Within around two minutes, a full on game of keep ball broke out. About 30 students all across the playground, students and staff all involved. Lots of laughs and lots of running around. The game was finally broke up when the classrooms became available.

Today’s sessions gave the rest of the St Mary’s students the opportunity to deliver the lessons that they have prepared. There was a real mix of lesson today, they included, economics, biology, bracelet making, music and science. I must say they were mightily impressive both their content and their delivery. The lessons were engaging and provided all the students with an interactive learning experience. It also provided the St Mary’s students with an excellent opportunity to test out their newly found skills and confidence. The music lesson was one I won’t forget for a while! The sight of 20 students with kazoos playing the South African national anthem isn’t something you see every day of the week!

A big well done to Niall, Elliot, Dom, Tom, Ben, Jess, Chris, Mitch and Maireen.

students in music lessonstudents being taughtbiology written on blackboard

With that we were straight back into the sport! After the success of yesterday, we turned up the challenge for the Mnyakanya students. They were given the challenge of leading each of their activities to the rest of the group numbering around thirty in total. This included setting up the playing areas, explaining the rules and running the activities. This would give a chance to again develop their skills but also prepare them for the sports festival tomorrow.

They did an excellent job, they all got stuck in, took turns to lead, explain and officiate. The progression over the last three days has been great. The students are now speaking with authority and clearly understand the process of leading a group. It is easy to forget that English is not their first language but they can communicate effectively and get the activity going. The sports festival will be interesting to observe as they deliver their activities to students from a local primary school. I think this will bring the best out in the students and the activities will be even better than today! I’m already looking forward to it, I am sure it will be an amazing day!

picture of all the students and andy

I think sometimes it is easy to forget where we are and how different things are compared to home. I think especially when you are doing sporting activity, you just get engrossed in what you are doing or at least I do when it comes to rounders! Today I took and opportunity to stop and actually look around at what is going on.

Picture the scene, a game of rounders, the sun beating down and a stunning back drop. Perfect conditions for a competitive and lively game just forget about the playing fields covered in stones, glass and bushes.

I then take a glimpse of second post and see a group of six Mnyakanya students singing in Zulu in unison. I then take a look behind me and see a small group of students playing the kazoo and dancing. I am pretty sure that this hasn’t happened before and probably never again! Surreal, strange and brilliant at the same time! I’m laughing just thinking about it.

Andy's dirty footWith that our day was done and we were on the bus back to the ranch for a well earned shower and some dinner. It is easy to forget how dry and dusty the field is and how quickly you get dirty! A long queue awaited for the shower. The food has been great all week and today was no different we were treated to a Zulu feast of chicken stew, sweet potatoes and Sweet beans. Full stomach and sleepy eyes.

Tomorrow is going to be ace and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Also, our stash of football shirts will be making an appearance!



Teaching and Football Shirts

The next four days of the trip signal a return to the main purpose of the project. The development of leadership and inspiring students and staff through sport and education.

There was a real buzz around the breakfast table this morning as we knew we were returning to Mnyakanya to carry on with our work. All of the students from St Mary’s have planned a full lesson to deliver to students from the school. The honour of delivering the first lesson of this years project was on offer and in time honoured tradition no one wanted to do it first! Thankfully, Mrs Chattoe just nominated a group to go first!

With that we were in the van, packed up with with food and a small part of the football shirt collection. Our first stop of the day was a short visit to the primary school which will be part of the sports festival. I say short visit… We arrived at 9:30am and left at about 11:45.

selfie I must say that the visit was a real treat and we got a first hand look at what primary education in South Africa. We had a fantastic welcome from a group of grade five children. One of which was a real character. Kuhle, who’s name translated into English means perfect was a star. He had plenty of chat and banter with us all asking for selfies etc.

After we left the welcome party, we had a tour of the school. This included a visit to each class in the school. What an experience, we got to see everything! Some of the activities included a performance of a traditional Zulu dance led by a group of 8 years olds, playing head, shoulders, knees and toes with 5 year olds, a Q and A with the oldest members of the school and finally learning some Zulu with 7 year olds. This proved to be quite memorable!

Wink on andys armhilst working through a Zulu worksheet I managed to put my arm on a broken pen and covered my arm in ink. This led to much amusement and pointing in the class and a lot of laughing! Never mind eh.

To finish our visit we were treated to a special celebration assembly. It is something that I will never forget. The assembly included a short speech from the principal and then led to three Zulu dances (one from the girls, one from the boys and a mixed group). Finally, we had a small theatre performance about life in a South African school. The noise from the Zulu singing and dancing bounced throughout the hall. I cannot wait to show everyone on the video of it all. Spine tingling stuff.

We said our goodbyes after a mountain of pictures! Good job I have got the 128gb version of my phone! Knew it would come in useful for something.

We arrived at Mnyakanya at around 12pm and met up with four students from Eshowe High School who would be supporting the St Mary’s students delivering the leadership programme.

football shirts


Once in the school, work got underway which began with the beginning of the giving of the football shirts we have collected as part of the Universities Football Shirt Amnesty. We presented all 27 of the Mnyakanya leaders with their very own Doncaster Rovers shirt. It was great to give out the kit and to ensure that it is going a great group of young people. It could be the beginning of a South African Doncaster Rovers fan club! The students will wear these shirts throughout their leadership training. Thank you to Ben and Doncaster Rovers for the fantastic kit.




indoor teachingAs part of the programme the students from St Mary’s prepare a curriculum lesson to teach to the learners from Mnyakanya. Today provided the first opportunity for students to get stuck in and try their hand at teaching and boy did they do a great job! We had Hannah and Becca teaching about the heart and how it works and we had Joe, Lucy and Will teaching all things Maths. It is hard enough standing up in front of a new group and teaching, add into the mix your first time teaching and with a group of learners whose first language is not English. It is not an easy assignment but they did a cracking job. The South African students loved it and really enjoyed being taught by our guys. The bar is set high for the rest of the group!


After lunch, we headed out onto the sports field to continue our leadership training. The students looked great in their new kit and they were really inspired to get stuck in and try their hand at leading a group. To begin with the St Mary’s students went through a full session with the Mnyakanya leaders. However, this time it was more about teaching them how to teach the session.

outdoor teaching
This then led to the Mnyakanya students leading the St Mary’s students themselves. For all of the group, this was there first taste of leading a group of people. They were magnificent, it was great to see the progression in both skills and confidence from the session on Friday. The Mnyakanya students were well supported by the students from Eshowe High. It is sometimes really easy to forget that English is not the first language of the students. Explaining the skills and rules of tag rugby is hard enough without adding in a lost in translation angle!

Leadership and in particular sports leadership is the same in whatever country you are in.

I have delivered many sports leadership courses over the years and two things tend to happen. We tend to have those who rise to the challenge early on and then we have a few slow burners who need a little encouragement and support. Mnyakanya is no different. There a few leaders who have taken on the challenge superbly! It was really inspiring to watch and give them the praise they so rightly deserve. Tomorrow they will be leading to an entire group of thirty, a new challenge but one I am sure they will rise to and succeed in.

andy and students selfie

As the time progresses and all of the students get to know each other you can really see relationships and friendships form. Sport can do that. The end of the day brought lots of handshakes, hugs and pictures. A real bond is starting to form and it is special to see it. As time goes on it is really starting to hit home what I am a part of. Life is all about taking opportunities as they present themselves and I am determined not to miss out on anything. I can see that from all the staff and students both from the UK and South Africa.

Just like on Friday, we had a couple of spare places on the bus, so we drove a couple of Mnyakanya students home. We dropped the students off 20 minutes drive away from school. Now think about that, 20 minutes. How long does it take those students to walk to school? How many don’t go to school because of the distances they have to travel. We are in the middle of winter in South Africa, it’s dark at 5pm. There are no street lights, no retail parks etc. When it’s dark, it’s pitch black. There is something that can and needs to be done to help this situation. I think this is where the University and its students can help. More details to follow but I am very excited about the possibilities.

Back at the ranch and the electric was on, as was the water. Finally, we were fully charged, wified and more importantly a clean group! After another lovely dinner, we sat down to one of my world famous quizzes! I love a quiz! The rounds were Yorkshire, Science and Nature, Sport and General Knowledge.

The eventual winners were the teachers! As you can imagine, the St Mary’s lot were really happy with this…

I was planning to have a big stack of quotes in this blog from the students as their messages are so powerful and really get to the heart of how this programme can help to develop personal skills. I also know that a lot of their parents and family are reading the blog which I think is pretty amazing! Hello to you all, I hope you are enjoying it, you should be very proud. They are doing a great job!

However, I am aware that this is a pretty long blog already! I am going make the next blog a bit of a student special. They will all have input so be sure to check it out.

Can’t believe it’s Monday already, time is going so fast but I am savouring every minute.


Buffalo Selfie!


No monkey wake up call this morning! Just the standard iPhone alarm and tired eyes at 4:30am! With the van packed full of people and food we set off for the day at around 5am to make our way to the Game Reserve.

It didn’t take long for the noise in the van to drop and for most people to fall to sleep including myself. However, I did wake up at around 6:00 to see the sunning sunrise across the sugar cane fields. Orange sky mixed with green fields. Gorgeous!

After an hour of travelling, we stopped off to pick up our guide for the day Logan and we were back on the road to travel up to the game reserve.

Animals crossing signWe arrived at the Game reserve at about 7:30am and had the opportunity to jump out of our van and stretch our legs. This proved to be a good call! Apparently, it isn’t that safe to get out of the van for a 10 minute walk in a game reserve. Something about getting eaten? I had my doubts but took the advice.

The game reserve we went to was called Hluhluwe pronounced “Shus Louie” and is set across 250,000 acres of pristine reserve land. Much of the land has remained untouched by humans and as such represents how the land would have looked when the first British colonials landed in the last 1800’s. It sure makes for a spectacular back drop!

Our guide for the day, Logan, was superb! He gave so much detail and insight into who all of the animals interact and how the land adapts and changes to provide for all that need it. He has been coming to the reserve for the last 38 years. If anyone knows 250,000 acres of land like the back of his hand then it is him!

So with the briefing we were off in the van, eagle eyed to spot the big five animals which are, lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino! I confess and I am sure my wife will agree that I’m not the most observant person in the world. Spotting animals is not my strong point! Thankfully, there were 19 other people to do that job for me!

Within the first 15 mins, we had our first animal sightings wart hogs and impala! From quiet observation to excitement in two seconds flat! I don’t think as a group we would be the best bird watchers in the world! Also, as it turns out my iPhone isn’t the best camera device when attempting long range shots of moving wild animals. I know that this will raise a smile with a few people back at work who recommend a “proper” camera.

dry river bed


As we went deeper into the forest we saw our first river or what should have been a river. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the country is currently in the middle of a severe drought. There is no better way to illustrate this than looking at a completely dry river. We were told that last year the river was half full and flowing. Fast forward to today and not a drop in there.


Logan told us that over the last year the area had only received a maximum of 60mm of rain across the whole year. Water is at a premium!





After a short break for breakfast, the animals began to roll in! We saw a number of Buffalo and then a major spot, four giraffes! I must confess that giraffes are my favourite wild animal. To see animals in their natural habit is a real pleasure and you get an up close look at how big they are! As we headed toward lunch we had hit a little bit of a lull and then bang! A small herd of both Zebra and Elephants! Pretty special.

We had lunch in a restaurant called Hilltop which had stunning views of the park. Not a bad place to have Sunday Lunch. A world away from a Toby Carvery! Also, we had the pleasure of watching a number of buffalo approach the watering hole. Not something that you get to see in a carvery! Lunch gave me the opportunity to speak to Logan about our plans for the University and our own project. This proved extremely useful and is definitely a step forward for a potential programme.

Elephant zebra Giraffe 2

We had a final two hours in the park and they certainly were action packed. We saw a large number of Rhinos, impala and hogs of which a couple got quite close to the van. Finally, something that my phone could handle!

Andy taking a selfie with buffalos

As we were leaving the park, we were forced to wait for 10 minutes due an obstruction. That obstruction being around 30 buffalo, mixed with a small group of Rhino who were all over the road. After much excitement/fear we decided to edge forward to see of we could get the animals to move. Thankfully they did, it also allowed me to hang out of the window and get myself a quick buffalo selfie! Thanks to Elliot for the idea!

So after the wake up at 4:30am and being in a van all day is quite tiring. However, I really enjoyed the journey home as I got to know a number of the St Mary’s students a lot better. We played games and chatted, I will reiterate what I have said throughout my blogs. They are a quality group of people and also highly intelligent! I have had to dip out of a few conversations as not to make myself look silly!

Hopefully a few will see the light and make the University of Leeds their home in 2016! I’m always looking for people to join my leadership programmes.

Back to the serious stuff tomorrow, we will be returning to Mnyakanya High School via Eshowe High School and a primary school local to Mnyakanya. We will be working on sports leadership prior to our sports festival on Wednesday. The St Mary’s students will also be delivering curriculum lessons to the South African learners. These lessons are varied and include economics, physics, biology and further maths. Told you they were smart!

We will also be handing out our first section of football shirts to our South African Leaders.

Now to sleep and hopefully a monkey alarm!


andy with leeds gryphon t shirt on

A Monkey Wake Up Call…


Welcome to the weekend!

No need for an alarm clock this morning, I was woken in surreal circumstances. I was stirred from my sleep by a constant scratching and tapping on the roof of my room. Ever the inquisitive person I am, I went outside to investigate the source of the noise. Much to my surprise, as I looked to the roof I found a herd of small monkeys swinging on the trees overhanging! Not your standard morning call but a pretty special one!

Today was all about culture and learning more about the Zulu people, this is something that I have been looking forward to as I know very little about how the Zulu people live.

So after a good hearty breakfast, we headed on our way to Dlinza forest in Eshowe. Dlinza is Zulu for meditate and this forest oozed both calm and beauty. The forest is home to over 100 species of birds, butterfly’s and mammals. Unfortunately, I am not the most observant of people and as such I think all I saw was a sparrow. Bill Odie I am not!

The route around the forest led to a boardwalk climb to an observation tower that stands 40m high above the forest. The view simply stunning, from that point you could see across the forest and to the hills across Zululand. South Africa is a real place of beauty.

From the we took about a 45 minute drive to Shakaland. Here we spent time at a Zulu village to learn about the cultures, traditions and history of the Zulu people. Shakaland is set in the hills with a lake behind the main village. From the pictures I have taken you can see for yourself what kind of place it is. Words do not do it justice.

The tour was fantastic, we got a real feel for how life and the social structures of the Zulu people work. We heard about the Zulu chief and how he runs the family homestead. We also heard about how polygamy is an accepted part of the Zulu culture and how many different wife’s can live in the same village. That part really raised a few eyebrows! We also learned some key Zulu words, I will do my best to practice and more importantly to remember them for my return.

Andy and Zulu Chief

We went through the homestead to meet the main players, the medicine man, fortune teller and the beer brewers. Finally, we spent a short time with the Chief and his wife. Here we learnt about dress and how the village operates and how the chief runs the show! We were invited by the chief to taste the Zulu beer with him. I must say it was quite nice if a little grainy! We learnt a little about courtship and how marriage works. We also learnt about how King Shaka modernised the Zulu army to turn them into a fighting force that defeated the British army. We were also told about a small wooden implement called the Passion Killer that Kind Shaka invented. I won’t go into too much detail but lads it doesn’t look nice. Something for google I think!

The day finished with some Zulu dancing which was fantastic; bright, vibrant and loud! I have a number of videos which I will try and get across for people to watch. Way too difficult to explain! We were then taken for lunch over the lake and then made our way back to Eshowe for a visit to the fort museum.

The road to the museum wasn’t exactly straight forward! In other words we got lost and ended up driving through a local township to ask for directions. The people of Eshowe and the Zulu people are unbelievably nice, so friendly and welcoming. They helped us out with some great directions and with a send off of waves from all those around!Zulu Women

The tour of the museum was lets say brisk! We arrived after closing time but they opened up for a quick tour. The tour was very quick! Let’s call it a power walk tour. We learnt about the British Fort which still stands in Eshowe and it’s importance. We also learnt about the reasons behind the Zulu/British war. One thing that has come out of this trip is a desire to learn a lot more about the history and politics of this nation.

Back to ranch and yes you guessed it the electricity was off again! Thankfully, the kettle had just boiled so I sat with a coffee watching the sun set digesting a day of information and culture. The last few days have also got my brain ticking on what we as a University can do to support the development of education, sport and sustainable development in the region. So much exciting work to do!

Off to see the big six tomorrow. Animals that is! I will also be meeting with Logan who helps groups set up tours and development work. Looking forward to picking his brain.

Up at 4am! Need to go to bed now! Three days gone already. For those thinking about the football shirts, there will be a little update tomorrow.

Hamba kahle wonke umuntu


Stunning Views and Mnyakanya High School

Well what an amazing day! From start to finish!

I am pleased to say that the electric did come back on at 3:30am! I wish that I hadn’t have left the lights on in my room!

The view at dawn from the guest house was simply stunning and really showcases what a beautiful country South Africa is. We are tackled the early start with some breakfast and packing up all the sports equipment and lunches in the mini bus. All dressed in our Bambisanani blue and full of excitement.


The drive up to Mnyakanya High School takes around 45 mins and is one of the most beautiful and interesting rides I have ever taken. It took no time to leave Eshowe and to start making our way up the hill towards the school. The scenery is amazing, rolling green hills and mountain partly covered in low cloud looked spectacular. Something I will never forget and something that I get to do another four times during the trip. The drive also allowed us all to see first hand what living accommodation is like outside of an urban centre. To be honest it is a real mixed bag, there are some newly built large house that I am guessing are attached to farms. Interspersed with this are a number of small huts that are built of materials including bricks, mud and corrugated steel.

The nature of where these houses are mean that access to transport is at a real minimum. Even at such an early hour the roads were filled with people walking up and down the hills. This included many children walking to school. For example some children that go to Mnyakanya High School walk up to four hours to get to and from school every day.

It is amazing to think about how education is viewed and the commitment these student make to it. It really is humbling.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when considering Mnyakanya High School. I had seen pictures and heard descriptions for people but needed to see it with my own eyes. The school is in a stunning location with brilliant views all around which you can see for miles. The school itself is quite small but relatively modern, it has a number of buildings as well as a security office and some outdoor space which is lets say interesting.

The welcome we got from the school and their students was overwhelming. We were instantly greeted by the Bambisanani leaders from the school. These were the students who were selected by the school to receive leadership training. We immediately went into a main classroom where the Bambisanani students introduced themselves and welcomed us to their country and their school. We reciprocated and thanked them for their fantastic welcome.

We were then taken on a guided tour of the school by two of the students. You could see and hear how proud they were of their school and their peers. We also had the chance to look at some of the work the students have been completing.

group of students welcom

After the formalities we began the process of training the next generation of Bambisanani leaders. This began with a bit of a get to know you exercise with all students and staff completing a number of ice breaking tasks. This was then followed by some discussions around what everyone considered to be a good leader. All leaders were asked to draw what they thought a good leader looked like. The less said about my drawing the better but lets say it brought much laughter and derision for everyone!

If drawing isn’t my strong suit, then getting outside and delivering some sport certainly is. I get such a buzz working with young people especially in practical sport. I think it is something that everyone should do to develop their communication skills. Nothing prepares you for the work of work like delivering two active communication games to 45 students many of whom you have known for less than an hour and who’s first language is not English! However, it went great and the students really seemed to benefit from it!

I am starting to understand the traditions of the Zulu people. They are very kind, sociable people who are keen to make the most out of each situation. They are also very laid back people, the timetable at the school is let’s say flexible! There seemed to be students outside most of the day! However, talking to students and teachers it is clear to see what an able and talented bunch Mnyakanya have in their midst! I have also learned the Zulu handshake! I will be sure to bring this back with me to try on people! Maybe at my first work meeting when I get back.

After lunch we took all of the students out on the schools playing field to look at the three sports the St Marys leaders are going to teach the Bambisanani leaders. Let just say that the playing fields aren’t really up to the standards we come to expect at home. After myself, Catherine, Giles and Tom (St Mary’s Staff) cleared three areas of rocks, glass and other unmentionables the sport was underway. The setting is unbelievable, I hope my pictures do it justice.

It may be a cliche but sport really does transcend language, race and religion. At the heart of it all, we all like to have fun and more importantly to win!

The Mnyakanya students are very competitive which I love and in turn the St Mary’s students turn their competitive notch up a little. The students will be teaching handball, rounders and tag rugby to the Bambianani students throughout the week with the finale being a sporting festival on Wednesday where all of the leaders come together to deliver to hundreds of local primary children. If the evidence of today’s session is to go by the event will be a massive success. I must say that the St Mary’s leaders are superb, they communicate and explain really well and take the time to ensure that everyone knows what they should be doing. The Bambisanani students progression over such a short space of time was fantastic. You could see their confidence grow over the day and I am mega excited to continue working with them on Monday.

I also had the pleasure of being the first accident victim of the trip. Anyone who knows me, knows that, I love Rounders and that I may have a slight issue with competitiveness. Whilst fielding a ball in the deep, I was so focussed on retrieving the ball that I didn’t see the nettle shrub that made up some of the outfield! I ran straight through it cut my hand and got nettled in the process. I took it like the tough Barnsley lad I am and demanded I plaster immediately!

The trip back was good, we managed to drop off two Mnyakanya students on the way that live 20 minutes down the road. Imagine having to walk all that way to school or work everyday. There and back. Makes me think about moaning about walking up the Headrow to work!

As has now become accustomed, when we arrived back the electric was off! It was off for 4 hours in total. It is amazing how dependant we have all become on the Internet! As soon as the electric came back the hunt for WiFi began! Between that time though the group had a great chat and deconstructed the day. It was clear to see what an impact the programme is having and it is giving me plenty of food for thought when considering what the University of Leeds programme will look like next year! Very exciting!

The food here is amazing and there is plenty of it! Bananas and custard last night, need I say more!

Right off to bed. Learning how to become a Zulu chief tomorrow! Usually Saturday for me then.


Welcome to the Zulu Kingdon

The Long and Winding Road

As I write I am sat in my room in Eshowe being lit by the camera flash on my phone. More on that later, plenty of politics in play in South Africa at the moment!

I last left you on the plane from Manchester to Dubai. Travelling has all been about the 20 min power snoozes which usually get interrupted by some kind of in flight entertainment. This has been either Family Guy, cricket podcasts or the number ones of 2001… showing my age a little there!

We arrived in Dubai safely and what a place it is. Flying in you see plenty of desert and sand and then up pops a massive city full of big extravagant buildings. You also get greeted by HEAT! We landed at 7:30am and the temperature was already at 34c.

Anyway we had 3 hours to kill in the airport so we had a good wander round the many shops on offer. Being Dubai, the shops were very high end and as such were for looking not touching. There were a number of items I was interesting in, mainly a six foot solid metal statue of a camel. Maybe on the way back…..

In a flash we were back onto another plane for the eight hour flight to Durban. Being the diligent hardworking individual I am…. I have brought some work to do while I am here, mainly featuring our Emerging Leaders programme which is the main reason I am here in the first place. Taking the time to look at the programme and what it aims to achieve has really allowed me to focus in on what this experience could provide our students. I am writing a piece on Inspiring a Shared Vision for the programme and can’t think of a better place to do it.

The flight flew by, pardon the pun and we landed in Durban at around 5pm. The next challenge was to rescue all of our 38 bags. I am pleased to say that all of our bags arrived and that Emirates did a great job. I must say that the students from St Mary’s are an absolute pleasure to be working with. You can really see what a great team they are and what fantastic work they are going to do as part of the programme. Also, the three staff members from St Mary’s (Catherine, Giles and Tom) have been ace and really made me feel like part of the team.


Andy with view from guesthouse

Waiting for us at the airport was our driving team for the week. They swiftly took us on the 70 minute drive from the airport to our lodgings for the next 9 days; the fantastic Chennells Guest House, Eshowe after 26 hours of travelling.

I must confess that I had no idea what to expect when it came to our accommodation, however, the guest house is fantastic! Staff have private rooms, while students have got fancy dorms. My room is excellent; however it backs onto the girls dorm. I think I may need to get used to the sound of giggling again!

Our hosts for the week are the Chennells and if first impressions are anything to go by they are great people. We arrived to be shown around the accommodation by Mrs Chennell who informed us that dinner was ready when we were, I think I am going to like this place!

Mr Chennell (Graham) then came into to speak to us all and to help us plan the evening activities which are very exciting but I won’t ruin the surprise! Mid conversation however, all of the power went off in the house and most of the area. Graham told us that the SA Government are currently operating rolling power cuts across the country. There are massive issues that the country faces in both power generation and infrastructure. The cuts happen most nights and last about two hours.

This region is also in the middle of its biggest drought in 80 years. This again has lead to water cuts, in the both the morning and the evening. Graham is a very interesting man and I look forward to chatting with him further. He is a prominent business man and has previously been involved in regional politics. He is also a brewer and brews a beer called Zulu Blonde which will be sold in Weatherspoons across the UK in the summer as part of the World Cup! Lots to talk about.

So, the real work begins tomorrow. Up bright and early to make our first visit up to Mnyakanya High School to begin training up the next generation of leaders. I am really excited to get to work and to learn more about this fascinating country.

However, I now need to sleep……. Same time tomorrow?


P.S Sending my best wishes to Paddy Craig who had an accident on his bike yesterday, hope you are ok and on the mend. You will do anything to get out of a run!

From 52,000 feet!

Well it’s on, it’s happening and there is no turning back now! As I write (11:48), we are 3 hours into the first flight from Manchester to Dubai. My Dad would be quite proud as I am listening to a mix of Dire Straits and Chris Rea to get me in blog writing mood.

The last couple of days have been quite hectic. Tuesday was spent making sure everything was sorted work wise. Thinking about that has just reminded me that I haven’t put my out of office on! Oops, sorry Paddy! My colleagues have been great and wished me well throughout the day. I have been set a few challenges by two members of the team, they have been accepted! Pics to follow in due course! Finally, a few choice colleagues reminded me how lucky I am to be part of it….

I went out on Tuesday with my wife which was really nice. She has been really supportive and made the whole process so much easier! I think she is glad to be rid of me of 10 days!

So onto today, I like to do things last minute if possible so that I am sure I haven’t forgot anything. That meant packing this morning, clothes, medication and of course my Barnsley shirts are securely in the hold! I am currently training for the Mablethorpe Marathon. So I went out on a 12 mile run first thing. Not sure I am allowed to do any running while out here but I will be doing my best to sneak a few miles in.

After being dropped off at Barnsley train station, I made my way over to Menston.

Students getting bags off the bus
I arrived to a sea of bags and cases; a total of 38 to be precise! We are taking out a mix of writing equipment, reading books, sporting equipment and of course a mass of football shirts!

Throughout the whole process, I have been made to feel very welcome and part of the team by both the staff and students of St Mary’s. Today has really highlighted that, and the school held a small mass before we left. This was a really nice touch and brought home what we are going to do and the responsibility we have. It really inspired the group and myself personally. We were asked to light a candle each and to take a cross to give to someone special out in South Africa.

With that we were off! Coach loaded and on the road!

As mentioned earlier, with 38 bags the check in staff were really pleased to see us…. 70 mins later we were into security. A few of the students fell foul of the liquid rules, this meant of all things a bottle of Fanta being confiscated!

So I am now sat in Seat 72H on a massive A380. I tried to negotiate my way up into seat 1A upstairs but not for the first time I was told… not tonight sunshine!

4 hours to Dubai and about 13 to Durban…..

Bring it on!


Andy's football shirts

Football Shirts for Everyone!

Well only one week to go now and it is all starting to feel a bit real! I am finding it all a little bit like getting married. You get the date, tell everyone about it and get the ball rolling on organising. After this initial rush, everything dies down and it all goes quiet until the final few weeks… and what a final few weeks it has been.

In the space of the last three weeks I have:

Gone to the doctors and had my jabs. I am not too bad with needles so that wasn’t a problem. I am now up to date with tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis B. I have been prescribed my malaria tablets as well. I have been reliably informed by my friends to expect to have crazy dreams whilst taking them. I will keep you up to date on that front!

I have also picked up my South African Rand, or so I thought I had. I went to the exchange and collected the money I ordered on Wednesday. Not much money, but enough for a bit of food in the airport and some basics from a supermarket. I received a phone call from the exchange to say they had given me the wrong currency and could I return it to get the correct money! I currently have 700 of something sat at home; I could be a millionaire and not even know it! Take a look at the picture and if you have any idea what it is please let me know!

Name that currency!

name that currency!

This week has also seen the conclusion of our Football Shirt Amnesty. After meeting with the team at St Mary’s it became clear that the students out in Mnyakanya have very little sporting equipment or kit. Instantly, I knew that we as a University could help to provide those students with some quality gear. So with that in mind we launched the Football Shirt Amnesty on Monday 11th May. The idea being that students, staff and members of the public donate their unwanted football shirts for myself to take out to South Africa to give to the students.

I think it is fair to say the response has been out of this world!

To be honest, I would have been happy to take out 50-60 shirts to give out to a few classes and thought we had done a very good job. In the end, thanks to the amazing generosity of staff, local football clubs, colleagues and friends we managed to collect almost 500 football shirts with many of those being part of a full kit. It never ceases to amaze me how generous people can be. The response of St Mary’s when I delivered the kit on Thursday said it all! I will take as many pictures as possible with the students putting the kit to good use while I’m out there.
I would just like to personally thank the people/clubs who have donated so generously. Thank you!

Finally, I spent the afternoon at St Mary’s on Thursday to take part in an HIV/AIDS workshop and to deliver some sport specific leadership training to the students going out to South Africa. The afternoon was superb!
The HIV/AIDS workshop really gave an insight into some of the issues and problems the country has to tackle such a terrible condition. It really made me appreciate how lucky we are in this country to have the fantastic NHS. It was also good to get my hands dirty and revert back to teacher mode to deliver a 45 minute session on Rounders. The students from St Mary’s are an absolute pleasure to work with and I know they are going to do a great job in South Africa. It has really fired me up to get out there and get going with delivering!

The next time I write I will be in a combination of Manchester/Dubai/Durban airport. See you on the other side of the world!